Attention: Do not read if you haven't read Inked Ever After!! *****Contains major spoilers*****
Hi everyone, as promised, here you have the epilogue the publishers decided not to include in Inked Ever After. Their reasoning was sound; the book ended in such a high note, they didn't want anything after that.
I, however, decided to post it for whoever wants to read it. After all, Inked Ever After is the last book featuring James and Tate, and I think they deserve an epilogue. Enjoy!
Just keep in mind this is a rough, unedited version.
Ten years later
Tate stepped out to the porch, where James was sitting watching the stars, a beer in his hand. As she’d been doing for ten years, she climbed onto his lap and as James had done for ten years too, he welcomed her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her temple.
“Boys sleeping already?”
She nodded. “They took forever to settle tonight. Especially Kev.”
“You’re tired, princess,” he said with a frown, placing his hand on her bulging belly and gently caressing it. “I could have taken care of getting them to bed. You didn't have to do it.”
She lifted her head and brushed her lips with his. “I know, baby, but I wanted to. I missed them this afternoon. Missed you too.”
James had spent the whole afternoon with the boys, fishing. She would have loved to tag along, but she was getting quite big and most days she needed a nap to keep up. Besides, fishing was something James did with the boys. It was their thing.
Tate had been sitting on the porch, reading a book after cooking supper, when she’d heard her men coming.
James had been carrying five-year old Kevin over his shoulders as if he were a sack of potatoes, their younger son laughing and squirming while his older brother, Jonah, was walking along his dad, carrying his own fishing gear, all grown-up looking, talking animatedly to James.
“Mom,” he’d called out, waving as soon as he’d spotted her coming their way. “We caught some fish.”
“I see, baby,” she'd answered, reaching them.
“Me too. Me too,” Kevin had shouted lifting his head and trying to turn to her. James’s wonderful hazel eyes stared at her from their son’s face. And that roguish grin of her husband’s too. “I caught one fish. The biggest of them all. Mega huge. Put me down, daddy. Down. Down.”
James had laughed. “All right, buddy. Hold your horses.” Then, while lowering Kev to the ground, he'd turned to Jonah. “You sure you didn't give him any sugar?”
“Swear, Dad. I gave him only five M&Ms.”
By now Kevin was jumping up and down, taking the bucket from his dad and yanking at Tate's hand, all at once. “Look, mommy, look,” he’d insisted showing her their loot. “The big one is mine.”
She'd kissed the top of his head. “I see, baby. You did good. Are the rest yours?” she'd asked looking at their oldest son.
“Yes,” he'd answered, smiling. Jonah was all Bowen too, from his blond hair to his facial features, except for his pale blue eyes. Those were all hers. The same his uncle Jonah had had. “Dad didn’t catch any. Again.”
James had snorted, amused. “Yeah, yeah. You guys claimed all my catches. Like always. Get going home. Wash and get ready for supper,” he'd ordered before turning to Tate and gently pulling her in for a kiss.
She had been already in her tiptoes leaning to him, her palm on his chest.
“You’re caked in sand, honey,” she'd said after kissing him.
“No shit,” he’d chuckled, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and bringing her deep into his side, caking her in sand too. “Fishing with our sons is a damn messy business.”
Yep. She’d seen them fishing plenty of times. Kevin was a handful, running around and chattering nonstop, unable to sit quiet for more than five minutes. Add to that five M&Ms and well, you had a tornado in your hands. Jonah was more calmed, but still. They required a lot of attention, which James gave gladly. Attention, time, love; James gave all of that unconditionally. Every day. All the time. He was a wonderful father. Jonah and Kev adored him, but he adored them even more.
And that extended to all the Bowen men. Cole and Max were married, with kids of their own, but there wasn't a hockey match, school play or any other significant event in Jonah's or Kevin's lives that didn't have all the Bowen men attending. Hell, even for the insignificant ones the whole Bowen clan got together. Which she totally loved.
“Don't complain. You're the first one that loves the fuss.”
“True,” he'd assented, a slow smile creeping across his face, the sea breeze ruffling that sexy shaggy hair of his. "Just remind me to keep Kev away from Annie's candy shop. Five M&Ms, princess, five. Our little man can't hold his sugar."
James had promised her to be the best husband and the best father he could be, and damn if he hadn’t delivered. As far as Tate was concerned, he was simply the best.
She stared at him as he took a sip of his beer on the porch. James was now forty-four—turning forty-five in a couple of months. He hadn't changed much; his body was as muscular and breathtaking as always, but now he had some sexy wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, and some gray hair on his temples. He was more handsome than ever. Among other additions, his back now sported two new tattoos; it was two small hands, prints of Jonah’s and Kev’s hands at six months old. She loved all his ink, but those handprints, and how proudly he wore them, were her favorites.
Many things had happened in these ten years. There had been rough spots, but not even once had she had to doubt about his love and commitment. Not even for a second. She’d seen him losing it only once, right before Jonah’s birth, when he’d come home and found her bleeding in the bathroom floor, almost unconscious. The only two times she’d seen him cry had been in their boys’ births.
“They are excited about tomorrow, that's why they took so long to settle tonight,” she said. “Everyone is going to be at your dad's. We need to be early in Alden.”
“Ten years, princess,” he whispered against her temple.
Tomorrow was the tenth anniversary of their wedding. Ten years. Which had passed in a flash. Up until now they'd always celebrated alone, but this time Aunt Maggie had insisted in throwing them a party.
She leaned her head on his shoulder and, letting out a long sigh, looked up at the night sky. She loved it in Cape John. Since James had bought this cabin, they'd spent all their summer vacations here. No exceptions. The town was a very close-knitted community that, never mind the vast amount of summer visitors, rarely let anyone in. Anyone but James, of course. In a week the tattooed gangsta from out of town had had everyone in his pocket. Even grandma Mendiola. Nowadays the Bowens had their own table in Kamikaze. Jonah loved it there. Kevin wasn't too fond of sushi, but he loved their famous Shin-chan roll, a concoction with mayonnaise and a sausage that would make any self-respecting Japanese person cringe but had their son walking in cloud nine. Max's little girls too.
“Do you remember what I accused you of being the first time we met?” Tate asked into the night.
“A cat kidnapper?”
She let out a giggle. “No. I mean the second time we met.”
James pondered for a long second. “A black hole wrapped up in frilly paper interested only in sucking good girls in?”
She turned to him, smiling. God that memory of his. “Yes. How wrong was I, huh?”
“Well, I don’t know about the black hole, but I do love sucking you,” he explained wiggling his eyebrows.
Tate broke into laughter. She still wasn't sure how he did it, but James kept cracking her up. He had some wrinkles, true, but so did she. Most of them were laugh lines caused mainly by him. She relished every single one of them.
“That’s right. And you excel at it, baby.”
They’d been together for a bit over a decade, they had two boys and a third baby on the way, and yet James was as passionate as always. Even more. Sex, like wine, got better with age. Who would have guessed. Now though, since the kids, more often than not she ended up with her face buried in a pillow, muffling her screams. And having sex behind closed doors. No need to send their sons to the shrink so early in their lives.
“How many headaches do you think I have given you since we met?” she asked in a whisper.
“Mmmm, not sure. Let me check my notebook.”
“Oh God. You keep track of those in a notebook?” she asked horrified.
His chuckle rumbled through her body. “Of course not, princess. The only thing I keep track on is the mischief of our two daredevils. When they become moody teenagers and accuse us of being unfair dicks, I’m going to take out that damn notebook and show them how uneven the scales are.”
“I hope this one is a girl, princess,” he added. “We need some balance here. Someone that obeys me.”
She couldn't stop herself from snorting. Jonah and Kevin adored their dad. Idolize him. And if this baby was a girl, she was going to have her dad wrapped around her tiny little finger in no time.
“And about the headaches, princess, you’ve given me as many as I’ve given you.”
In that he wasn’t wrong. James was the love of her life, but it had to be recognized that he could do arrogant and bossy with the very best. His barbarian side hadn't gotten domesticated. At all. Not in the bedroom, not out of it. Case in point being this cabin; she'd tried paying him back for half of it, but no dice. No matter how hard she'd tried, or how sneaky she got, James hadn't accepted a cent. Two years ago, for his birthday, she'd decided to buy him a new truck, the one he'd been talking about getting for a while. James had hit the roof when he'd seen it. Well, he'd fucked her senseless and then had hit the roof. He'd accepted the gift, but next day she had the full price of the truck in her bank account.
“Besides, when I woke up this morning it wasn’t the headaches I remembered,” he continued, taking her out of her thoughts.
He tipped her face up. Kissed her softly on her lips. “No, baby. Not at all. I remembered you running down the aisle and throwing yourself in my arms during our wedding, my tattoo on your back in plain sight for everyone to see. I remember you kissing the living lights out of me even before the priest got a word in. I remembered you giving birth to our two sons. How you held Jonah for the first time, scared out of your wits you were going to do something wrong. I remembered how whole and at peace I feel when I’m deep inside you. How much I need you in my life. How I can’t really breathe without you. How much I love you. You are my wicked pirate princess, a thousand times more precious and beautiful to me now than ten years ago. And let's get real; you were pretty stunning to begin with.”
“Thank you, love,” she said blinking tears away. “But it's all you. You are the one who have made these past ten years spectacular. I love you, James. And there is no day that I don't thank God I have you in my life.”
He brought her to him and kissed her long and deep. And like always, she melted. His smell, his taste, his touch, all drew her in, and in no time she was drowning in him. Breathless, her hands in his hair, holding him to her.
“How tired is my princess?" he whispered against her lips.
She smiled softly. “Not that tired, baby.”
She was never that tired. And much less in her state, with all her hormones running wild.
“Good,” he said brushing his knuckles over her cheek. “You're so fucking beautiful.”
She was well in her third trimester and would have loved to straddle him properly, but her stomach was in the way. She pouted. “Getting quite big, James.”
“That's not true. I love making love to you when you're pregnant, you know that, baby. I love how you wake up in the middle of the night and reach for me, hot and needy. How you explode around me the second I touch you. There is one thing I miss though; taking you with you wrapped around me, your chest clued to mine, looking straight into your eyes.”
She smirked. “Getting tired of the reverse cowgirl, I see.”
He barked out a laugh. “Never, princess. You can ride me all you want.” He nibbled at her bottom lip, then soothed it with his tongue, one hand wrapped around her neck, his thumb caressing her jaw. “And correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the cowgirl in question was on her hands and knees, in our bed, this morning. Moaning into the pillow through her third orgasm.”
She blushed at his words. Or maybe it was his touch what was giving her hot flashes. The erection poking at her thigh perhaps? In any case, she had to put on the breaks.
“Wait, baby. Before you scramble my brains, I got something for you,” she said gently pulling back. She reached for the table near by and handled him an envelope she had hidden there while they had been fishing.
He raised his eyebrow. “I recall you clearly saying no presents this year.”
Sure she did. Every damn year for their anniversary, and for all other special occasions, James came up with the most amazing, thoughtful presents. So much so, that by their fourth anniversary she was frigging self-conscious about giving him anything, because he would top that, hands down. It didn’t matter how much money he spent; even the most inexpensive gifts got her every time.
“Did you comply?” she asked.
James gave her a duh look, his snort loud. “Of course not.”
As she’d figured. “So don’t complain and open it.”
“What is it?”
She shrugged. “I thought you deserved big compensation this year now that you won’t see me with the wedding dress. I know how much you like me wearing it.”
She’d dyed the dress a darker beige, shortened the train and transformed it into a sexy-like-hell nightgown that she only and exclusively wore for their wedding anniversary.
In their first anniversary she’d been nursing Jonah, who had been born four months prior, and her rather small boobs had been huge. As in 'hello, can't see my shoes when I look down'. He’d seen her with the dress, and they hadn’t made it in time to the restaurant.
Almost like in their wedding, where they made it to the reception, but barely.
“I love you wearing that dress, princess. This year you’d be as gorgeous in it as always,” he said gently caressing her bulging stomach.
“I could model it for you before going to bed tomorrow.”
His eyes flashed. “Deal.”
As he started opening the envelope, she had a sudden case of jitters and stopped him. “Wait. What did you get me?”
A devilish smirk spread on his face, robbing her of breath. God that he was handsome. Ten years and she still got butterflies in her stomach when he looked at her. “Not telling you yet.”
“Come on, just give me a hint; is it as outrageous as that clone-a-dick thingy you got me for our first anniversary, or are we talking about a romantic present like enlarging and framing that picture of me nursing Kev while I was sitting on your lap and Jonah watched?” Because the man was totally unpredictable, one never knew what he had in mind.
James smiled. “I thought the clone-a-dick thing was very romantic, didn't you? Us naked, our hands and other body parts covered in clay... That chick flick you made me watch a while back, Ghost?" he shook his head. “They got nothing on us.”
She burst out laughing. “Come on. Just a hint,” she repeated when she was able to talk again. She waited for him to say something, but soon it became apparent he had no intention to. “Okay, whatever. I'll make sure we are alone when you give me your present. Just in case,” she said as she motioned for him to proceed.
He opened the envelope and took the tickets out. “Princess--”
“This is for you, baby. You’d wanted to spend our honeymoon in a deserted beach, doing nothing but being lazy and making love instead of traveling to Italy. So, I got us a two-week trip to the Cook Islands. It’s not deserted, but quite. The biggest of all the islands, Rarotonga, can be circled by scooter in twenty minutes tops. I hear downtown consists of one street and rush hour is when two cars stop in the only traffic light of the whole place.”
“Let me do this for you. Please, James.”
He stared at her, love shinning through hi eyes. “What about the boys, work, Rosita's?”
She smirked. “I have everything organized. My mother and Ron are coming from Florida to stay with the boys, and you and I are leaving for the beach in two days.”
“Baby, you’re pregnant. Very pregnant.”
“That’s why it has to happen tomorrow. In a bit over two weeks I’ll be eight months pregnant and the airline won’t let me fly. I’ve already arranged it with Zack and Sean; you are off. They have orders not to let you in the office after tomorrow, or call you. Or take your calls. After the party at your parents’ place we will be spending the night in a kick-ass hotel the name of which I’m not telling you. Suffice to say I reserved the honeymoon suit. And asked them to make sure there's a swivel chair in handy.”
James chuckled softly. “Princess—”
“Shush. After the party I’m kidnapping you. For two weeks the only thing in our agenda will be lay on the beach and make love. And that is that.”
A very male, very wicked grin appeared on his face. He wrapped his hand around her neck and pulled her to him. “Bossy, Mrs. Bowen,” he whispered against her lips.
She encircled him with her arms. Kissed him. “Learned from the best, Mr. Bowen. From the very best.”
Copyright © Elle Aycart 2013